Great Careers Groups Career Management,Career Transition Two Secrets to Writing Resumes for Humans versus Bots

Two Secrets to Writing Resumes for Humans versus Bots

Writing Resumes for Humans versus Bots

Do you have the right keywords and resume format for the Applicant Tracking System?

Do you know there are secrets to writing resumes? In fact, there are two secrets to writing resumes for humans versus bots – keywords and resume format for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) vs. humans.

There are also some other secrets to writing resumes, or perhaps they are philosophies. I do not believe in the black and write resume for humans, but I do for bots. Resumes with a pop of color may help them stand out if the color is used strategically and appropriately. The human resume should be easy to read as a typical scan is about 6 to 15 seconds. 

Resumes for bots should be black and white. The Ladders did a study and showed heat maps of where recruiters’ eyes went when they looked at a plain black and white resume vs. one with shaded bands. Read this article and look at the visuals. A picture is worth a thousand words, and because of this article, I use the shaded band format for the “pretty” resume for humans.

Color should be a consideration, and you can learn about each color’s positive and negative connotations by visiting Color Psychology. I use light blue shaded bands on my human resumes as that color works for men and women in any industry. There are so many options available for resume templates, yet I only use one and only one format that is tried and true.   

Font choices are important for formatting. I only use Arial 12 point font for the bots, as it is a sans serif font that came up repeatedly in my research as an appropriate font to use for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). For human resumes, I use Calibri, which is another modern sans serif font. 

Many people still use Times New Roman, which I would never use for a client as it leans towards ageism, just like having an email does. Times New Roman was created about a decade shy of a century ago, and AOL began just shy of four decades ago.

Columns, tables, lines, shading, and borders could be used on a human resume but would not be best practices for a bot resume. Any of those elements just mentioned would cause me consternation for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). There are over 200 ATSs that exist, and you never know which one you will get. Read these tips to avoid the pitfalls of the ATS, including the types of bullet points you should and should not use. 

Typed information in headers and footers, and any section breaks, could cause a problem for the bots. It is best to type right into a Word document and avoid using headers and footers. 

A Word document is usually what is used for resumes. If an application requests a PDF, make sure it’s a readable PDF and not an image PDF that you would get by sending your resume through a scanner or taking a picture with your phone. Those last two examples create non-readable resumes. To make a readable PDF from Word, you would click File, Print, save as PDF.

You might have discovered by now that you will need two resume formats when you apply to a job – one for a human and one for a bot, and they have to match. At the end of an online application, you may have the opportunity to attach your “pretty” resume after you upload the “deconstructed” resume. 

It takes time and effort to create a good solid base resume after analyzing various synonyms of keywords. Since you can only have one LinkedIn profile, you should quantify the keywords used for job searches. I can best describe this as an art and science. You will use a mix of the highest volume of words and the nichey words in your skillset. 

After developing a solid base resume, you need to customize each and every resume by exchanging your base resume keywords section with the keywords used in the job description. 

One must be aware that one resume does not fit all job descriptions. For example, budget or budgets may be the best choice to use in your LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements section, but budgeting should be used in your customized resume if budgeting is used in the job description. 

If you are currently working, make sure you keep your career documents up to date. It’s essential to engage in career management all the time and be proactive, and not just update your resume when you need to be reactive. 

It’s also critical to make networking a habit, even when you have a job. Keep that network fresh, as you never know when you will need your connections. 


Lynne Williams is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, that provides career education and networking. Lynne also writes for,, and